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Optical/IP

Marc Ganzi, through Zayo, could buy Windstream, Uniti next – reports

A group of investors, including Zayo and its parent companies, DigitalBridge and EQT, are reportedly looking to purchase broadband network owner Uniti Group and its Windstream business.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reports that deal talks started in June but have since stalled over the price. An early proposal valued Uniti at $3.5 billion, but the company might be seeking double that, the WSJ said.

The publication noted that whatever the price, it would be substantial because Uniti recently had about $5 billion of debt and Windstream has about $2 billion of net debt. The two companies recently completed a complex transaction that helped push Windstream out of bankruptcy.

The complex transaction, if consummated, would put even more broadband companies under Marc Ganzi's purview. Ganzi, a longtime cell tower executive, has been collecting a wide variety of domestic and international telecom assets under his DigitalBridge business.

DigitalBridge now oversees the largest private tower company in the US, Vertical Bridge, as well as the largest private small cell company in the US (ExteNet Systems), two data center companies (DataBank and Vantage Data Centers) and tower operations in countries ranging from the UK to Mexico to Peru. Just last year, Ganzi's DigitalBridge orchestrated the $14.3 billion acquisition of fiber giant Zayo with EQT, and earlier this year it secured Boingo private in a transaction valued at around $854 million.

The combination of Uniti and Windstream with Zayo would drastically expand the broadband reach of Ganzi's DigitalBridge business. And news of the deal comes at an interesting time because the FCC on Wednesday approved millions of dollars in government network-buildout subsidies for Windstream. The company was one of the top participants in the FCC's recent Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program.

But Ganzi isn't the only investor chasing broadband network providers in the US. For example, Macquarie Infrastructure Partners (MIP) recently acquired Cincinnati Bell; Oak Hill and KKR invested into MetroNet; and Lumen agreed to sell a large part of its US network to Apollo Global Management for $7.5 billion.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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